Have you recently transitioned from a conventional 9 to 5 working at the office to flexible remote working? If your answer is yes, you might probably need to read this article thoroughly! I have been dealing with the transition for quite some time and all I can say is that it is hard for me (and you are not alone!).
For my entire career as a communication professional, I have enjoyed going to work from 9 to 5, meeting a lot of people, and being trapped in the middle of Jakarta’s traffic. The moment I received the fellowship offer from Atlas Corps, I realized that my routine would surely change drastically. At first, I was glad since I was sick of spending time on the road during my daily commute. Days turned into weeks and when the remote routine started, the jet lag evoked. Especially in terms of communicating with my new colleagues. So how can I overcome this?
Adapt to Virtual Communication
Adapting to communicate through virtual platforms is the key to remote-working. Set yourself to adaptive mode and see where it will eventually take you. Get used to using a lot of platforms that provide space for you to interact with your colleagues such as Zoom, Skype, Jitsi, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet for a video call or conference. Familiarize yourself with Slack, Trello, or Basecamp for project management. Maximize the utilization of the features they have. And also, you need to be patient enough to deal with the internet problem that might occur one or two times. So, you always need to be ready for a backup plan!
Another important thing is to know the time difference between you and your colleagues, especially when your teammates spread across the globe. Use tools like Savvy Time to prevent you from doing math over time differences (LOL).
I know for some people who prefer having in-person communication (especially those whose work involves a lot of coordination), communicating through virtual platforms can be exhausting. Especially when you have to turn verbal explanations into words. Sometimes the message can be either too prolix or too short and people often miss the context. It is quite understandable considering virtual communication is a way different from in-person communication when you can easily interpret messages based on nonverbal forms such as voice tone, body language, and facial expression.
In my first week of remote working, I was dumbfounded to see how my colleagues communicate directly. Seek help when you need it, ask questions when you need clarity over something, and give concise and effective briefs when you give instruction, said my supervisor. Don’t spend time composing too many intros when you just want to ask someone to give you access to your organization’s social media accounts. Instead of writing “Hi, hope you are doing well. I know that our social media accounts are the main channel to communicate our campaign. Realizing the importance of that, I hope you can give me access so that I can start distributing the content I have developed,” you can go with “Hi [name], I hope you are doing well. I need access to our social media accounts since I am planning to distribute our content. Could you please give it to me today? Thanks so much!”
Direct communication will help you reach your goal. And somehow it determines the time you need to finish your assignments. So, mind it carefully!
Show That You Care While Communicating
Just because you have to communicate directly, doesn’t mean you don’t show that you care about your colleagues. After all, they are also social beings who crave interactions with other people. It is okay to make small talk to break the ice. During my induction with other team members at my host organization, my colleagues spent 5 to 10 minutes talking about their journey to Indonesia (the country where I come from) or their hobbies. They even let me explain my obsession with dumplings! That method reduced tension and awkwardness towards each other!
Another important thing is checking up on each other, especially with those who work closely with you. It is good to show that we don’t just interact with them for the sake of the work, but them as human beings.
Pay Attention to Other Non-Communication Problems to Deal With
Besides communication, you also need to pay attention to other aspects as well. For instance, on the first week of remote-working, I was sort of feeling lonely because I used to have in-person meetings and potlucks with my colleagues. Having interaction with other people also lifted my mood and energy because sometimes we could throw and exchange silly jokes and anecdotes to escape from the tight deadlines. So yeah, working remotely made me feel so lonely.
Building a support system is the key to overcoming this problem. I’m trying to keep up with my former teammates (since we also hangouts in daily life), my friends, and my families. I regularly check up on them, ask them to go out, or simply schedule a google meet to catch up with each other. Additionally, I’m also doing new hobbies during my day off to help me out from the trap of daily remote-working.
I hope these tips can be beneficial for you who is going to start your first day as an Atlas Corps fellow! I am also still conquering the remote-working jetlag while serving as a fellow in my home country. I hope your transition can be smooth and full of new insights! Feel free to hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this topic!